By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Smackdown Live Hits
Shinsuke Nakamura opening: The Royal Rumble winner was spotlighted right out of the gate. He boasted about the top wrestlers he took out with a knee to the face in the Royal Rumble match, yet didn’t overstay his welcome before Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn interrupted, and later AJ Styles came out to make the main event tag match. The match was interesting due to the new dynamic between Styles and Nakamura being WrestleMania opponents, and it became even more interesting once Daniel Bryan announced that Owens would face Zayn to determine the No. 1 contender next week.
AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn: The actual match did a nice job of feeding into the drama of the Owens and Zayn situation. There’s still plenty of time before WrestleMania so there was no reason to establish major friction between Styles and Nakamura. It feels too soon for the Owens and Zayn split, but I look forward to the day when Owens turns babyface. I doubt that’s where they are going here, but that will be a big deal whenever the time comes if it’s done right. Nakamura getting the win was the wise move as he maintained his momentum coming off the Rumble win.
Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Zack Ryder to determine the No. 1 contender for the U.S. Championship: The Hit is more for the result than anything. There was nothing wrong with the match, but it was hard to be excited about a four-way that felt so random in that it included a tag team wrestler and a guy in Ryder who rarely wins matches. I love the idea of Rusev winning the match and one can only hope that creative is eyeing this as an opportunity to do a double turn. Rusev is super over with the fans and Roode is much better as a heel.
The Bludgeon Brothers squash: It started with a nice piece of foreshadowing as the Usos were on their way out when Luke Harper and Erick Rowan made their entrance. It’s the only logical title match given that the Usos just swept Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, and there has not been any attempt made when it comes to making Tyler Breeze and Fandango or The Ascension feel like credible challengers. The squash match that followed was a logical way to continue building up the repackaged Harper and Rowan.
WWE Smackdown Live Misses
The Usos promo: I didn’t think it could be done, but they pulled it off. Congratulations to the WWE production crew for finding a way to make the Usos seem uncool. The graphics that listed what the Usos were saying as they walked and talked backstage was really pushing it, but that cell graphic that appeared whenever they said lockdown while they were in the ring was the cheesiest thing I’ve seen in a long time in any genre of entertainment. The new graphics on Raw were great. The Smackdown approach of putting key words on the screen during wrestler promos was so bad that it made the awful selfie style promos seem acceptable in comparison.
Riott Squad attack Charlotte: Apparently, Charlotte is a loser with no friends. Seriously, that three-on-one attack scenario took forever and the only person who ran out was Carmella for her latest Money in the Bank cash-in tease. The Smackdown women’s babyface roster is only three women deep. Why not take a moment and come up with a simple explanation for why Becky Lynch and Naomi were unable to make the save?
Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger: Mostly a showcase win for Corbin that also served as an easy opportunity to flip over to the State of the Union address.
Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin vs. Tyler Breeze and Fandango: A showcase win for Gable and Benjamin. Nothing wrong with it, but see Corbin vs. Dillinger for the rest.
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